It’s that time of the year again — a time that most parents look forward to and most children hate. It’s back-to-school time for many children around the country. With the economy being the way it is, some children are forced to work to have extra money in their pockets, some kids want experience doing something they’d like to do in the future, and other children just want some type of responsibility. On NBC’s “Today” show, Diane Salvatore, editor-in-chief of Ladies Home Journal, discusses the pros and cons of after-school jobs. Read some of her thoughts, from the latest issue of the magazine, below.
More and more teenagers are holding paid jobs. Research from the University of Minnesota Youth Development Study shows that only seven percent of the youth did not hold a job at anytime while school was in session (during the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades). The research also shows there are many potential benefits of holding paid jobs during the teenage years.
WHO IS A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR AN AFTER-SCHOOL JOB?
Virtually any teenager can handle an after-school job if the job choice is right. There are so many learning opportunities with jobs. Even if you learn that you don’t want to do that particular job again, it’s a learning experience that you’ll remember for a long time. The key is keeping it down to 20 hours. You don’t want them to go over that amount of time. One of the most important things learned from having a job is time management. Kids with after-school jobs are forced to figure out how to balance their time.
Overall, having a job as a teenager can help you figure out what you want to do when you grow up. Through the learning opportunities offered by work, young people come to understand that both extrinsic rewards (income, advancement, security, prestige) and intrinsic rewards (opportunity to express one’s abilities and interests, ability to help others or to serve society) are available through work.
HOW SHOULD KIDS AND PARENTS GO ABOUT SELECTING A JOB?
Teens and parents should be on the lookout for learning opportunities in jobs, opportunities to gain exposure to different work environments, so as to increase work readiness and to build capacities that may be useful in future jobs. Young people may be encouraged to start thinking about their future work as adults — to think about the kinds of work that they would like to do, and those that they would rather avoid.
It is possible to learn about the workplace in general (and different types of job tasks and settings) through initial employment (for example: what it is like to work with customers in a retail store, with children in a recreational program, etc.) Some may decide that they want to further look into these types of work; others may decide that is not for them. Early vocational thinking and exploration is important. Not that I would encourage young people to decide what they want to do early on, but to begin thinking about this in light of their interests and capacities.
WHAT GUIDELINES SHOULD PARENTS FOLLOW FOR HANDLING JOB, SCHOOL, HOMEWORK AND EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES?
Jobs should be favored that do not interfere with other valuable activities that the teen may be engaged in.
Clearly, schoolwork is the central business of the child’s life, and should not be jeopardized by employment. The Youth Development Study (YDS) found that most youth who held part-time jobs were involved in a wide range of activities, especially if their paid work was limited to 20 hours per week or less.
Time is important, so you don’t want the job to be too far from home. The teen should be able to schedule a job around their activities. The job should never become the centerpiece of a kid’s life. It’s important, but it shouldn’t interfere with their homework, band practice, or something else that means a lot to them.
HOW SHOULD YOU TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT YOUR NEED FOR HIM/HER TO GET ONE? OR TO GIVE ONE UP?
In the YDS study, parents of the YDS teenagers were highly enthusiastic about their children working. They believed that working helped their children develop character traits that would be useful in later life — the capacity to take responsibility, to be independent, and to learn about the world of work. Many encouraged their children to take on paid jobs.
One useful way to broach this subject could be to discuss with the teenager the jobs that the parents themselves had when they were teenagers, and how they thought these jobs helped them (or hindered them) as they moved into their adult jobs and other roles. In reflecting on their own experiences, parents might encourage their children to take on the kinds of jobs that proved most helpful to them.
No matter what type of job a teen has, they come back with a body of work experience — whether it be working with people, learning how to speak to people or gaining responsibility. Baby Boomer parents are spending an astronomical amount of money on their kids — especially with their needs today. These parents should be able to let them know that they can work on their own to attain some of the goodies that they want. High school is the recommendable age to start working. The job should be enough of a challenge so the teenager is not bored. It shouldn’t be such a high stress job where it conflicts with the kid’s school work. Parents should be paying close attention to the children to see if it’s taking a toll on their schoolwork.
GIVING UP A JOB
Parents should be aware of their children’s work — the kinds of work they are doing, their hours of work, and be alert to signs of interference with school and other valuable activities. Parents should be supportive when their children decide to give up their jobs, seek new work that is more compatible with their schedules and their developing interests.
WHERE ARE THE BEST PLACES TO LOOK FOR AN AFTER SCHOOL JOB?
In the study, the most popular ways of finding jobs after high school were through informal networks (friends and neighbors, family members) and by direct application: going to a place where one would like to work and asking if there are openings. Young people make greater use of formal channels (employment agencies, placement services) and contacts at work as they grow older and leave school.
Teenagers should keep in mind that many community agencies need volunteers — volunteer work is another way to learn about what it is like to work in different kinds of organizations. The study indicates that volunteering is a valuable experience.
WHAT TYPES OF JOBS DO YOU RECOMMEND? ARE ANY JOBS VALUABLE?
Jobs are recommended that do not interfere with school and extracurricular activities, that allow flexible hours so that the young person can more effectively balance school and work, and do not require the youth to work more than 20 hours per week.
While some challenge and even stress in the workplace, may be beneficial in fostering the development of coping skills, highly stressful jobs (involving overloads, unclear responsibilities, noxious work conditions, etc.) should be avoided.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD JOB?
This is a difficult question to answer because adolescents have different needs and have been exposed to different kinds of experiences in their families and neighborhoods. Interviews with YDS young adults have highlighted the importance they attach to learning how to relate to people. They emphasize that the interpersonal skills they learned through working as teenagers have been invaluable. Some youth mentioned that working helped them to overcome their shyness, gave them confidence in talking to adults. Many point to the confidence gained through working.
Time-management skills are especially important because of the need to continue to balance various roles and tasks subsequently in life. They learn how to balance school and work early on. Since higher education usually involves at least part-time work to help pay school expenses, learning to balance these responsibilities early contributes to the capacity to stay in college and obtain a degree.
The whole world of giving a kid confidence by working and talking with people and feeling they make a contribution in one way or the other is important.
Diane Salvatore is editor-in-chief of Ladies Home Journal. Information provided by Diane Salvatore and Ladies Home Journal. For more information on teens and after-school work you can check out the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal on newsstands or visit their Web site at: www.lhj.com.